Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Scottish Play

For those of a nervous and superstitious disposition, look away now, I went to see a live screening of the National Theatre Live performance of Macbeth at a local Cineworld cinema. Okay, you can look again now, that's the last time I'll mention Macbeth (whoops)*

The National Theatre Live have Macbeth playing at the Manchester International Festival from a unconsecrated church in Manchester itself.

I studied Macbeth for my English literature exam at school and have seen a number of productions on TV and on film and I do like it a lot. This tragic tale of treachery and ambition was a joy to watch with some remarkable performances from Sir Kenneth Brannagh as the eponymous villain, Alex Kingston as Lady Macbeth, Jimmy Yull as Banquo and Ray Fearon as Macduff.

The church floor was covered in mud and the fight scenes at the beginning took place with rain pouring from the rafters. The audience were warned not to wear their Sunday best for fear of getting splashed with mud and fake blood, several did.

This was a real full on version with minimal sets and props relying on the superb performances and that didn't disappoint. The atmosphere was electric and I was moved to tears by two scenes, the first when Macduff is told of the murder of his wife and children at the hands of Macbeth's henchmen and indeed again when the murderous Macbeth is told of the death of his wife Lady Macbeth and he begins his famous soliloquy masterfully and movingly delivered by Brannagh:

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

I love the idea of bringing the spectacle of the play to a bigger audience, the Manchester Festival play being sold out since February within 9 minutes of tickets going on sale so it was the only chance to go and see it, via the big screen.

Criticisms are few from me. The witches were beautifully and scarily made up but the lines were delivered in a screaming fashion with strange accentuation and therefore sadly undecipherable mostly which is a shame because they set the scene of the future upon which Macbeth bases his decisions.   

A privilege to see it with good friends Linda, Helen and Phil; an unforgettable experience.

Chat soon


* According to a theatrical superstition, called the Scottish curse, speaking the name Macbeth inside a theatre will cause disaster. A variation of the superstition forbids direct quotation of the play (except during rehearsals) while inside a theatre.


  1. I had to teach this play to my 12th grade Literature class. I LOVE it. The progression of character development is so realistic. Shakespeare knew human nature so thoroughly I'm sure that's one of the reasons for the longevity and popularity of his works.

  2. Hi ChrisJ
    He understood the nature of mankind, the soul and the dark as well as the lighter side of life. His stories have been much adapted and copied for centuries.